The Musicians’ Voice

Volume CVIII, No. 11November, 2008

The Musicians’ Voice is an open forum for discussion about the state of union affairs. The letters published here do not necessarily express the views of Local 802. Letters must be 300 words or less. Send them to Allegro, c/o Local 802, 322 West 48th Street, New York, NY 10036, or e-mail Mikael Elsila, the editor, at


To The Editor:

Many thanks to President Mary Landolfi for her well-phrased rebuttal to the often-repeated notion recently published in the New York Times that the costs of musicians, orchestrations and music copying for Broadway musicals are “staggering,” as well as to Michael Starobin for his efforts in overcoming the reluctance of the Times (which receives millions in advertising fees from theatrical producers) to print it.

We have been listening, in silence, for years to this mantra from management, and it is gratifying to see it finally discredited by representatives of our profession.

–Jonathan Tunick 


To the Editor:

President Landolfi’s article in the October Allegro warns musicians that our recently-distributed petition seeking to preserve the RMA Player Conference from dissolution by the AFM International Executive Board should be considered carefully before signing. She seems to imply that higher work dues might somehow ultimately result from the RMA continuing to exist.

We believe this is a fallacious suggestion, as is the article’s apparent attempt to connect the RMA with ongoing legal actions involving the AFM.

Differences between the AFM and the RMA are based on policies such as the AFM’s creation of one-off contracts and a movement towards the elimination of back-end payments, both of which hurt musicians and favor employers. 

President Landolfi speaks as if unaware that theatre and symphonic musicians do recording work; representing recording musicians is the mission of the RMA. We should all be skeptical of any local or national agreements created without rank-and-file involvement.

Player conferences ICSOM, ROPA, RMA, TMA and OCSAM protect musicians by providing rank-and-file input to the AFM and to national contract negotiations. They play a similar role nationally as committees do at the local level, such as our Theatre Committee. Administrations may come and go, but the damage caused by unrepresentative bargaining can be irreversible.

The recent resolution by the IEB serves mainly to further enhance its political power over the fates of working musicians. If RMA’s conference status is eliminated, will other player conferences follow? We believe that President Landolfi’s apparent indifference to the fate of a major player conference should concern all Local 802 members. 

We wish to thank the more than 200 Local 802 musicians who have signed our petition demanding that the AFM not seek the dissolution of the RMA. 

–Roger Blanc, Lanny Paykin, Tino Gagliardi and Gail Kruvand-Moye
The writers are the RMA-New York Executive Committee.

THE ADMINISTRATION RESPONDS: After decades of allowing its control of the market to diminish, the AFM has come to the realization that it must organize in new areas of the music business, like videogames, if it is to remain relevant. Contract models based on studio motion pictures simply do not fit this industry. This is not synonymous with any Local 802, or, as far as we know, AFM decision to dispense with back end payments that currently exist, as the writers would have one believe. Organizing new work should be good news and it is indeed unfortunate that some members can only see it in terms of a threat to themselves.

Membership in the New York RMA is on a self-selected basis. Many members of the NY-RMA are not eligible to vote on AFM recording agreements. This makes it very different than a player conference of musicians who are all active in their respective fields. While this administration is interested in the opinions of the NY-RMA, it would be irresponsible for Local 802 to allow it to supplant the opinions and participation of all musicians who do this work and who are actually eligible to ratify recording agreements. 

Finally, when the NY-RMA and its national parent advocate that others “share the pain” by paying even higher work dues while dues on the back end remain negligible, it is they who are indifferent to other player conferences, not the current elected leadership of Local 802.


To The Editor:

In his October Allegro report, Vice President Dennison stated that “In 2006 (actually under the prior administration) the Local 802 Executive Board asked the AFM to consider a new videogame agreement with terms and conditions that more reflect the realities of that business.” 

This statement is false and Dennison knows it. 

The agreement he mentions was indeed submitted to the AFM’s International Executive Board (IEB) on Oct. 31, 2006, but solely by Recording Supervisor (and Executive Board member) Jay Schaffner, without the knowledge or approval of 802’s Executive Board. The agreement was adopted by the IEB over the objections of the Recording Musicians Association, whose members record the bulk of AFM video games music.

Upon learning what Schaffner was doing, the 802 Board sent a fax to the IEB informing them that the proposal had not been approved or submitted by Local 802. Both Dennison and Mary Landolfi defended Schaffner’s actions and voted against sending the fax. Dennison’s minutes of the meeting mention the fax but omit any reference to its content.

Dennison cannot fail to remember the outrage expressed at that meeting (by all but Landolfi and himself) at Schaffner’s falsely claiming to the IEB that his proposal was submitted by Local 802.

Why Dennison would now choose to lie about this is a mystery. The 2006 events are well documented and he cannot have believed his statement would fly. 

Several musicians have urged that Dennison be charged for making false statements about this matter in Allegro. However, because the process of filing charges against officers is extremely cumbersome, probably taking many months, and, since the next election is only about a year away, I strongly recommend against the filing of charges no matter how appropriate they might be in the light of such blatant dishonesty. 

–Jack Gale
The writer was a member of Local 802’s Executive Board
from 1989 through 2006.

THE ADMINISTRATION RESPONDS: Jack’s letter is not accurate. Local 802 officers and the Executive Board were fully aware of discussions with the AFM in 2006 about proposals to change the videgame agreement. Some background: In 2005 at the urging of the prior administration, the Local 802 Recording Department organized a rank-and-file Recording Musicians Committee, largely because the New York RMA had ceased to function. The rank-and-file Recording Musicians Committee during the next year had numerous discussions about how to gain a union presence in the burgeoning game music field. These discussions were shared with the officers and Executive Board. In fact at its Sept. 5, 2006 meeting, the Executive Board voted to authorize funds so that a member of the Recording Musicians Committee could meet with AFM leadership about alternative game music proposals. The Executive Board at that time was also informed of the work of a subcommittee of the Recording Musicians Committee and various proposals being considered. Subsequently, on Nov. 14, 2006, two members of the Recording Musicians Committee met with the Executive Board to go over the experimental game music proposals adopted by the AFM. Clearly the work of this rank-and-file committee and Local 802’s Recording Department succeeded in opening the door for more of this work to be done here in the U.S., under union agreements and by union members. Unfortunately — and we think unnecessarily — the issue became a political football in the 2006 Local 802 elections, hence the fax that Jack alludes to in his letter. It should never have been made a political issue then and it should not become so again.


To the Editor:

It’s time the Landolfi administration was called to account for its blatant attempts at rewriting both facts and history in the October Allegro. 

1. Landolfi states: “Theatre and symphonic musicians, who pay dues on all of their income, cannot continue to share a disproportionate burden of the cost of running the Federation.”

Fact: 802 keeps Broadway theatre work dues — none goes to the AFM. Studio musicians DO pay AFM dues on all sessions.

2. Dennison states: “In 2006 (actually under the prior administration) the Local 802 Executive Board asked the AFM to consider a new videogame agreement with terms and conditions that more reflect the realities of that business. The AFM did so and the result is that more video games than ever are now being done in the U.S.”

Fact: “President Lee advised that a fax had been received from the Executive Board of Local 802 advising that the videogame agreement proposal previously presented by Recording Supervisor Schaffner had not yet been reviewed and approved by Local 802’s Executive Board.” (from the AFM IEB minutes dated Oct. 31 to Nov. 2, 2006).

Finally: publication in the Musicians’ Voice column of Local 47 member Charles Fernandez’ letter bad-mouthing both the current Local 47 administration and the RMA-NY’s board and its chair Roger Blanc does nothing to further the calls for “unity” espoused by Landolfi and AFM President Tom Lee. Fernandez’ Web site indicates that most of his commercial composing/arranging was used as “additional scoring” (not major film composing) for MGM and Disney cartoons. Further, he is the chief voice behind THE COMMITTEE FOR A MORE RESPONSIBLE LOCAL 47 (their caps, not mine), a malcontent group fomenting revolt against the International RMA “elites,” its L.A. chapter and 47’s current administration, whose president ran against Lee at the last AFM convention.

–Michael Comins
The writer is the founding international secretary of the RMA
and a founding member of the RMA-NY and
Local 802’s Coordinating Advisory Committee.

THE ADMINISTRATION RESPONDS: The writer obfuscates the intended point that Broadway and symphonic musicians pay work dues on the entire wage package negotiated by the union. The dues package supported by the RMA at the last convention would have added another 0.25 percent in the form of Federation work dues for both groups, a proposal advocated for by the RMA in Nashville prior to the convention as a way to “share the pain.” If theatre and symphonic musicians are already paying work dues on all negotiated income, in what way is it equitable to insist that their work dues be raised even higher before work dues have been applied to all of the union-negotiated compensation of recording musicians? Is it equitable for Broadway and orchestras to be raised to 3.75 percent while a significant portion of the compensation to recording musicians is assessed at 0.25 percent? 

The writer also knows that the videogame proposal he references was discussed and approved by the Local 802’s rank-and-file Recording Musicians Committee. (As a member of that committee, he in fact voted in favor of the proposal.) In addition, the work of this rank-and-file committee and its proposals were shared with the prior Executive Board, which voiced no objection until the eve of the 2006 Local 802 elections when it became part of a political attack on certain candidates. 

As to the last point, Local 802 has a long tradition of printing all letters it receives. The letter to which Mr. Comins refers is no exception, although President Landolfi did call the leadership of Local 47 as a courtesy and its leadership did not object to publication of the letter. It seems that Mr. Comins’ real point is that opinions which he does not share should not be made public.